One of my girls catches the winning score in ultimate–playing for the other team.*
The basketball players I coach, whom I used to dominate, can now outplay me. In fact, I’m hanging on by my fingernails to keep up.
My son knows more about the Star Wars universe than I do. He used to ask me questions to learn; then he asked me questions to quiz me; now, I have to watch The Clone Wars with him to figure out what he’s talking about.**
This isn’t primarily about sports (or Star Wars), I just find those examples the easiest to explain. These are things about which I’m a little conflicted. I see the good and I rejoice. I’m happy for it. Mostly.
I’m a little conflicted about dying. I’m a little conflicted about becoming less so that others can become more. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase but I must decrease.”
It isn’t merely a refusal to let go. It’s more than an ego war. Dying to self also involves a change of identity. Is being a coach better than being a player? Or is being a player better than being a coach?
I think the answer is in Ecclessiastes: for everything there is a season. John the Baptist first increased. He gathered crowds. More accurately, crowds mobbed him out in the desert. He said scary things and they gathered around all the more. He had a crucial time to speak, to be heard. Then he stepped back out of the spotlight because he knew his role. He understood his own identity. Blessed is the man or woman who understands that.
When I counsel young wanting-to-be-married people, often the strongest thing I say is “Don’t get married until you know who you are.” I did the wedding of a couple of late teenagers who thought they did. But they didn’t yet and they didn’t stay married. One day she woke up and realized, “This is not who I want to be.” And that’s a perfectly valid decision, especially in one’s early twenties–but it does a lot less damage if one hasn’t already made a life covenant with someone else.
But sound though this advice is for young adults considering marriage, it also suggests something too clear cut for real life. We don’t come to some glowing epiphany between 19 and 25 when we figure out who we are, once and for all, and then spend the rest of our lives trying to do that well. Okay, a few of us do, and God bless them. This blog likely isn’t for them, unless they’re hoping to make sense of the rest of us.
As I’m starting out 2017 and trying to make some significant changes in my life–because it’s time and I’ve been thinking I need to without actually doing anything about it (which, by the way, does nothing)–one of the things I’m facing is the next step of my identity. In what ways do I need to decrease so God can increase in my life? In what ways do i need to focus more on fewer things so that I can become who I’m made to be?
A friend recently shared this quote from Upile Chisala :
there is danger in letting people misname you
if you are a fire
don’t answer when they call you a spark
So here’s a funny thing, and by funny I don’t mean funny: I think some of the dying I need to do involves giving up being less than I am because it’s easier and more comfortable and, frankly, people like me better this way. Maybe this is a paradox of life. I have to decrease not by stepping out of the way but by stepping into my role more fully, by stepping into my truer self, the self that I need to become now.
Where is the decrease in that? Circling back to my original examples, I can’t win every time and also have my girls beat me. If my basketball players never get better than I am, we won’t be very good; I throw everything I’ve got at them so that they will rise to that challenge and then rise above it, at which time they’ll need a stronger challenge than I can provide if they’re to keep improving.
Bigger picture–and please forgive the vagueness, I’m figuring this out as I go, making out the shape of the room in the dark by feeling along the walls while trying not to slam my shins into every single sharp object–I think it’s time to stop feeling bad that I’m not all the things people wish I were. Next step, it’s time to stop trying to be those things. Or even to keep making a nominal effort just to appease and receive approval.
I’m a little conflicted about this. The small part of me needs to die so that the more solid me can stop tiptoeing around back here and step up. The scared part of me needs to quit self-sabotaging so that the me-it’s-time-to-become can get on with the becoming.
I must decrease–sin, fear, self-doubt, self-accusation, all the stuff I let myself believe I’m stuck being now and will be forever, that just has to die–so that he may increase in me.
Not long ago, a friend said, “I think you have a prophetic gift,” and I said, “Yeah, I don’t want that.” Assuming my friend is right about me,*** I really said, “I’m refusing what God gave me because it scares me too much.”
But I’m not a spark. I just haven’t figured out how to be a fire yet.
* I wrote this late last night; today, my daughter did catch the winning score for the opposing team, after my other daughter, my teammate, caught the score that put us within one point of victory.
**Not impressed with The Clone Wars yet, but worth it to share it with my son. I can live with having him outrank me in Star Wars geekdom.
***Not necessarily a safe assumption, since I have some friends who are pretty nuts.